February KPA President Report

Dear Postgraduates.

Welcome back to Keele after the Christmas break and a special welcome to those of you who started in January. I hope you have been able to settle in well and have enjoyed the warm and friendly atmosphere Keele provides. In case you’re not aware of who we are, the Keele Postgraduate Association is a postgraduate students’ union that represents your interests to the University and works to make sure you have the best experience whilst you are here. You can learn more of who we are here.

On to the report itself! So, what have your elected officers been up to these past couple of months? As always, the list is not exhaustive, but I hope it will give you a good flavour of the types of things we have been working on. If you have any questions please do not hesitate to email me at kpa.chair@keele.ac.uk.

  • PG Fee Payments – Many of you raised with us last semester that the tuition and accommodation fee payment deadlines did not line up with the payments of your loans, with your loan payments coming in after the deadlines. We took your concerns to the University and they have now changed the payment deadlines for 2018/19 to be in line with the arrival of your loan payments. They have also taken the initiative to amend the PGR fee payment deadlines in the same way in preparation for the doctoral loans starting next academic year. Thank you again for raising this issue, you have all helped make a positive change for future postgraduates! Remember, if you are ever struggling to meet payment deadlines, always contact the Income Officer to arrange a payment plan.
  • PGT Fee Rises – You may have seen Soloman Gibson’s article released at the start of this week, which can be found here, highlighting the huge rises in PGT fees for the next academic year, averaging 40% (subject to Council approval). Many students, especially third years aspiring to undertake PGT study, have understandably expressed their dissatisfaction with the move. The University justification was that this move has been to bring their fees in line with their benchmark universities and to improve the funding available for PGT courses. In our negotiations with the University we did raise the huge dissatisfaction students would have with this move. We also lobbied the University on two key areas of concern if these plans were to go ahead: a) students being priced out from accessing PGT study and b) the quality of the PGT education justifying the price tag attached to it. In this light our negotiations have been successful. Firstly, we have been able to achieve a change to the Graduate Bursary from a flat £1000 bursary to a 20% fee deduction (subject to Council approval). This should mean all students, regardless of which fee band they’re in, receive an equal fee deduction and that the minimum increase in the bursary should be 40% (in line with the fee increase). Some students may receive a substantially higher increase. Secondly, the University has agreed to undertake a detailed review of its PGT provision to ensure it is to the standard that is expected of PGT students. We shall be a part of this review process and shall continue to represent your interests throughout. As well as this, due to the demand, we have started to organise Masters Funding Talks for current third year students interested in going onto a Masters at Keele; showing them they can access a Masters if they want to. If you know anybody who would be interested in this, please do let them know!
  • New Academic Misconduct Policy – The University is currently reviewing its policy on academic misconduct, which includes a variety of misconduct issues such as plagiarism, excessive proof-reading and commissioning (buying essays), that applies to all students (UG, PGT, PGR). We have been in discussions with the University about this policy and ensuring it works for you as students as well the University and have made positive progress in this area. I hope this reflects well on some of the behind the scenes work that your elected officers do on your behalf.
  • Disabled Students – Over the past few months we have been working with the University to look at ways that the provision for disabled students could be improved. This is an area that needs significant work and the KPA is pushing for a number changes, particularly for students with visual impairments and students with dyslexia/dyspraxia. We are also keen to hear from students with disabilities and learning difficulties about their experiences of postgraduate study at Keele. If you have an experience you would like to share don’t hesitate to get in touch.
  • Doctoral Loans – Over the past few months we have been involved in University discussions on the development of a package that could be matched with students intending to undertake a PhD on the doctoral loan scheme. Details of this should be available in the coming months so if you are interested do keep your eye out for any announcements!
  • PGR Provision Review – Whilst we have been able to lobby the University to undertake a review of its PGT provision, one area it is already doing this is with PGR. As I am writing this report the University is already conducting workshops with staff and student representatives (such as KPA officers) to review the PGR student experience, the administration of PGR courses and much more. The next workshop will be next Wednesday (7th February) 2-4pm and the University is keen to have some PGR students there to contribute to this process. If you would be interested in attending this workshop and providing feedback on Keele’s PGR provision, then please do send me an email.
  • National Voice – As I have said in previous reports, we have been working with other postgraduate officers around the country to develop a unified national postgraduate voice to help tackle issues that are beyond the control of the KPA and the University. As part of this, your officers will be attending, and presenting at, a PG Officers Conference on Friday 2nd This will be an opportunity for your officers to communicate with fellow PG officers and discuss the variety of issues that impact PG students in the UK. We also hope to take some ideas away to implement here at Keele!

I hope that this summary has been useful for you all. If you do have any questions about any of the work we do, please do not hesitate to email me at kpa.chair@keele.ac.uk – I would be more than happy to answer any of your questions. Is there an issue that you think we’re not aware of and should be investigating? If so, drop us an email and let us know. We are here to represent you and your interests, so if there is something we can be doing for you then we’d love to hear from you about it!

So once again, welcome back to Keele! I hope second semester goes well  and that you achieve everything you would like to achieve over the coming months. And I look forward to seeing you around campus soon (if you do see me, do always stop me and say hello!).

Ieuan Smith

KPA President

Ieuan Smith Written by:

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